Posted: 12:54 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, 2013
Retiring a number is one of the highest honors a team can bestow upon one of its players, and Arkansas football clearly takes it seriously -- for good reason. It's an act that officially declares one single Razorback as the definitive player to wear that number.
For No. 77, that player is Brandon Burlsworth, and it's easy to understand why. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship, a starting position, All-Conference honors and a master's degree before he left Fayetteville. When he was killed tragically in a car accident shortly after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, he became the first Razorback to have his jersey retired in decades.
In fact, Clyde Scott's No. 12 is the only other jersey number in the nearly 120-year history of Arkansas football to be retired. Scott was an all-everything RB/DB, an Olympic silver medalist, and a fine Buckaroo. He became the first Hog to be honored with a retired number in 1950, but he wasn't the last Razorback to wear it (or to earn All-America status with it on his back).
In the 1970s, coach Frank Broyles was eager to sign Steve Little, a hotshot high schooler from Kansas. As detailed in this 1985 Los Angeles Times piece from Gene Wojciechowski, Little starred at quarterback and defensive back and was a priority recruit for the Hogs. In order to secure his signature, Broyles, with Scott's permission, dangled Little's preferred No. 12.
It worked. Little inked with the Hogs, but his home wouldn't be found in the backfield. With Ron Calcagni running up a 25-4-2 record as the starting quarterback, Little focused on kicking and punting, where he became one of the nation's best and a two-time All-American.
He's best remembered for the 67-yard field goal (still an NCAA record) he kicked against Texas in 1977, and was school's all-time leader in kick scoring, until Zach Hocker broke the mark last season.
Little's story doesn't have a happy ending, however. He was a first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978, but failed to find success in the pros. Then in 1980, hours after he'd been released by the Cardinals, tragedy struck when Little was involved in a car accident that broke his neck and left him in a wheelchair until his death in 1999.